Musing: A Person’s Principles and Values System

I am fascinated by human beings as individuals and persons; what they think of themselves and their seemingly contradictory capacity to be brilliantly beautiful and malicious without skipping  a heart beat. I think ultimately what makes an individual is how he/she perceives himself/herself and this can broadly be grouped into introverts and extroverts. While the grouping makes for easier classification it is hardly clear cut: there are those introverts who will act as an extrovert would in a particular setting e.g in the company of friends or people they can identify with and an extrovert in the presence of a situation dominated by introvert may have to act differently as well. Given that this is human behavior I am discussing here, there are an infinite number of variations that can arise in settings that involve extroverts and introverts (in varying numbers) as well as settings in which extroverts or introverts are by themselves.

It would be acceptable to posit that every human acts from a foundation of principles and values in which they believe. These values are influenced by the society and the prevalent believe system that is in place but in this day and age of information exposure to other societies (and their respective believe systems) would also play a key role. I have come to realize that not everyone has an idea of their principles and their values – not explicitly anyway and this does not stop an individual from wanting to make the rest of the world believe and act in the same manner as he/she would. This of course is not a bad end to desire – it makes it easier for the individual to cope with life and even perhaps feel his or her own value in the group (which is ultimately the society).

One of the better indicators of one’s principles and value systems is perhaps a person’s intentions when he/she makes a decision and thus carries out an action as a result. The intention of a decision can be malicious or benevolent and the decision as to which is which boils down to a person’s perception and what his believes and principles are. Hold on, I am not going in circle here (I think): the intention (and its interpretation) indicates a persons believe system. Ethics 101 indicate that the object that will be affected by the intention of an action or decision provides sufficient understanding of whether the desired end (arising from intention) is malicious or good: as they say the means justifies the end.

Ethics has always been one of those strange disciplines in my thinking: it is good to espouse such grand ideals such as the end justifies the means but the main actor in all these is a human being. Like I mentioned earlier, a human being is sufficiently complicated and from this seeming complexity comes the individual’s unique (as him or her aside from others) but shared (similar to all other human beings) identity. When the intention of an action is applied in the context of non-human objects, then the decision is mostly straight forward but when the "object" so to speak is a human being then the situation becomes incredibly complicated. In most judicial systems in the world, there is an understanding of justifiable homicide which would mostly accommodate instance of self-defense but we all believe that we are human beings and it is bad to kill a person. So, if a person feels threatened he/she is likely to react in such a manner as to defend himself or herself and this feeling of threat is a personal matter: the way one person perceives threat is significantly different from what others might believe to be a threat. So if the intention of an action that will affect another person is a perceived as a threat then the situation is likely to get out of hand quickly. Let me digress a bit: I was watching Episode 4 of the 6th season of the Dead Zone in which a dumb character was jailed for 10 years for a murder that he didn’t commit. And it seem through his entire ordeal nobody seemed to properly interpret his intentions … How difficult is it to interpret the intentions and motives of a handicap person? The best answer I could give you is that it is not easy but at the same time I don’t think it is impossible either – my siblings seem to do it quite well … end digression 🙂

Informally, I track the intentions of the people I interact with in order to get an appreciation of their principles and value systems. It is not a scientific process but it also makes it easier for me to decide on how I engage with people. I have come across people who have the tendency to say what they don’t mean and have no intention of following through with: this of course introduces fundamental problem in understanding the intentions of such a person with regard to any effective actions he/she might take. For example in making appointments: I have had people who agreed to meet with me on a particular date and place but without any cancellation (or has it happened in one unforgettable instance cancellation on the exact time the appointment was suppose to be) choose not to show up. So my question always something like this: why would you agree to an appointment that you have no intention (deliberate or otherwise) of showing up for? Though, I am hardly that senior but I believe there was a time when a person’s word has value attached to it. In these times we have contracts being of higher importance because they carry penalties which are more often than not monetary in one way or another. On the other hand saying what you mean and meaning what you say has the penalty of credibility on your character – your seeming inability to mean what you say and say what you mean can lead to conclusions of being unreliable which means that the trust that you can be afforded will be less.

To claim an ability to understand a person’s intentions on each occasion would be wishful thinking; to address this short coming, I believe it is much better to request that a person explain his or her intentions. In my experience, this has not worked out and I am in the process of coming to an understanding of this. One possibility is that the persons I have requested to give me an explanation of their intention are not entirely sure of what it was that they wanted to achieve. The other more plausible explanation is that the manner in which I interpret their intention is significantly different from the assumptions they used: they always seem to overlook a crucial bit of information which would have made them make a different choice. This is something that puts a big grin on my face: a while back I asked someone to explain why she didn’t show for an appointment … within the first paragraph I was being told "I am not sorry I stood you up …". That is actually funny … this person seem oblivious to the extend to which I can go to ensure that she doesn’t have any opportunity to stand me up again. It is good to speak your mind but a little thought to the collateral damage that will result from what you say is a good thing to take into account: just because you can do it, it does not mean that you should.

Of course believing that it is appropriate to spit out all the thoughts your mind can conjure up is a good thing provide an opportunity for keen people around you to get a much better understanding of what you are made of … including the parts that you didn’t mean to communicate across. What a person says represents what it is that they believe and value but inferring principles and value systems from actions alone is not reliable because actions (as a result of decisions) could be aimed at solving an entirely different problem.

  1. #1 by Anthony Milla Taban on May 7, 2009 - 2:40 pm

    Hey brother, I believe you are just ahead. I can’t believe that you wrote all this in the year 2007 and it seems I just connecting with it and understand it now. It is very interesting….I wish I studied this Ethics 101.

  2. #2 by Me on May 7, 2009 - 3:23 pm

    Thanks for the comment. Next time we hang out, I can summarize ethics for you.

  3. #3 by Me on May 7, 2009 - 3:24 pm

    BTW, I think I have some similar abstract wanderings in my Facebook profile … under notes.

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